Elon Musk is a busy man, running two burgeoning companies — Tesla Motors and SpaceX. When asked what he would be doing if the two companies didn’t exist, Musk made an impromptu comment that he would be working on a fully electric aircraft.
In an interview with Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace, Musk said he “had a design in mind” for the electric aircraft, which would be able to take off vertically. Before diving in too far, Musk said he was “too busy” to work on the aircraft further.
We’ve heard this before, when Musk originally revealed plans for the Hyperloop. Before revealing it, he said that he was too busy to work on it. Just a few weeks later, he said if no meaningful progress had been made by 2016, he may start working on it.
Currently, Musk offers Hyperloop engineers a chance to test out their track at Hawthorne, California, right outside the SpaceX headquarters. It seems that once Musk has an idea, he likes to at least part-fund its success, even if he isn’t fully committed.
Musk believes boats, trucks, and all other transport (apart from rockets) will go electric, because an electric engine is fundamentally more efficient than a combustion engine. Using the Tesla Model S as an example, he said 90 percent of the energy goes into motion, while only 20 percent goes into motion on a combustion engine.
Tesla Motors has already expanded into the energy conservation business with the Powerwall and Powerpack. We could see Musk expand Tesla to include aircraft or engines, similar to how Rolls-Royce develops aircraft engines and car parts under the same holdings company.
It is still a good few years away from happening, since neither Boeing or Airbus has announced plans to work on electric aircraft. It might fall on Musk to invest in building the engine for a smaller company or work with startups to build new aircraft.
Pollution from aviation continues to grow as more people clammer aboard large aircraft carriers to go on holiday. The average trip from New York to London uses as a year’s worth of heating — that only becomes worse as we see more exotic travel locations and larger airplanes transporting more people.